RNC taps Cincinnati, 7 others to submit bids for 2016 convention

CINCINNATI -- The Queen City is among eight cities that will be considered to host the 2016 Republican National Committee's convention -- and one of three in Ohio alone.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted Thursday morning that Cincinnati will be joined by Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The finalists largely represent swing states that likely will help decide the 2016 presidential election.

It’s the first time in modern memory that the Ohio’s “three C’s” have bid to host the convention in the same year. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state, and few Democrats have.

Backers see the convention as a potential boon for tourism, as well.

RNC Deputy Press Secretary Ryan Mahoney said the eight cities are the ones that chose to submit bids from the two dozen cities solicited. No judging or narrowing has been done so far, Mahoney said, adding "that comes over the next few weeks"

RNC site visits “will take place mid- to late-spring and the list will be narrowed down further after that," he said.

Cincinnati will bid to host Republican National Convention in 2016

The undertaking means Cincinnati will field a substantial team of coordinators to bring the convention home.

Western & Southern Financial Group CEO John F. Barrett will spearhead the effort. City Councilwoman Amy Murray, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann and local GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou will help Barrett present the bid.

Murray said Barrett “saw this as an opportunity to highlight Cincinnati on the national stage."

Cincinnati’s bid package is private – like the rest of the cities' bids – because “it's really competitive information," Murray said, and that "if we don't get it this year, we may use it again."

Officials did say that under Cincinnati’s bid, the convention would be held at U.S. Bank Arena. Other facilities involved in the bid would include Northern Kentucky University and Xavier University, whose dormitories likely would be used to house convention workers.

Sources said Cincinnati’s bid proposal was 155 pages long, while Cleveland’s was about 300.

Triantafilou said Cincinnati has several advantages:

> Electoral importance: "Hamilton County is one of the three most important counties in America for making a Republican the next President of the United States," he said.

> Location: A convention here reaches voters in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Plus, Cincinnati is a day's drive for over half the U.S. population.

 > Downtown's walkability: "Our arena, which is on the river, is so close to so many different entertainment venues and so many places that people would want to visit upon leaving the convention," Triantafilou said.

Triantafilou downplayed concerns that U.S. Bank Arena, which will be 41 years old in 2016, isn't big enough or up-to-date enough to compete for the bid.

"We think that our arena certainly is adequate. There's some talk about sprucing up the arena. We would have a couple of years to do that here.  So, we don't think the arena is going to hold us back," he said.

He dismissed complaints about the Millennium hotel, saying:  "The Millennium is one hotel. There's been a lot of talk about that, but there are a couple of new hotels coming on line here in Greater CIncinnati and we think that this convention - and by the way, they all start coming the year before - will really be a motivating factor for these places to improve their facilities."

Cincinnati's bid has drawn promises of support from various sectors, including the governor’s office.

Gov. John Kasich has pledged up to $10 million from JobsOhio to help. That money would be offered to Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland in the event that one of the cities was successful in getting the convention.

Some Cincinnati businesses have privately said they would donate to the effort. Murray promises “soft” donations, but added, "there's some firmness in there."

Cincinnati representatives met with GOP officials in Washington, D.C., earlier to find out what it would take to host the event.

The convention could bring in about 50,000 people to the Queen City.

The price tag isn’t cheap though. The host city is expected to raise as much as $60 million to help pay for the convention.

Scoring pledges of corporate help are essential when a city seeks to host a national political convention.

For example, Duke Energy offered a $10 million line of credit in 2012 to lure the Democratic National Committee's convention to Duke's hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

Now that Cincinnati has been offered a chance to make a bid, representatives will make a presentation to GOP officials in Washington on March 3.

Local GOP officials said Kentucky and Indiana will be involved in Cincinnati's effort, as well.

The convention is slated to be held in June or July. The RNC already is considering several changes to its presidential selection process. The June or July date is roughly two months sooner than has become the norm.

Mahoney said requests for proposals were sent to about two-dozen cities in late 2013.

In February, several of those cities – including Cincinnati – sent representatives to Washington to ask questions about the bid process.

After the March 3 bid presentation, the RNC Site Selection Committee will announce what cities it will travel to for site visits. Mahoney said that may include all eight cities or a narrowed list.

Those visits will be made in late spring and then a narrowed list of cities will be selected for follow-up visits.

The full RNC will take a final vote on the convention city in late summer/fall.

Democrats have yet to identify potential convention sites.

Julie Carr Smyth with the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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